Game of Thrones Season 5 Episode 6 Recap

Weddings in Westeros give me such a bad feeling. Has anyone’s marriage ended well on this show? Ever? This week it’s Sansa’s turn, and boy, does her wedding night not go well. There is simply no escaping that Sansa is going to suffer as the wife of Ramsay Bolton. It’s inevitable and, I think, necessary to push her character in a new direction. Visually, Sansa’s awful wedding night is handled about as well as it can be. She starts out getting some of her own back by putting Lunatic Miranda in her place, and not letting herself be intimidated by one of Ramsay’s crazy girlfriends. However, Miranda does give Sansa an inkling that Ramsay is far, far worse than she or Littlefinger was prepared for.

The actual scene focuses on Theon, forced to watch Sansa—his one-time sister—as Ramsay brutalizes her, and episode director Jeremy Podeswa lets the image of Theon weeping speak for what’s going on, as even the dialogue track is almost completely buried under the score. It’s incredibly effective storytelling, and it stands in sharp counterpoint to Daenerys’s similarly troubling wedding consummation, which was done in-camera. That scene focused on Daenerys’s face, bringing out her vulnerability, but this scene, through Theon’s tortured expression, highlights Sansa’s humiliation. It’s a painful, ugly scene, as ugly as anything this show has ever done, even as the actual direction is about as tasteful as can be given the scene’s subject.

The opening, though, is so tonally different from the rest of the episode I wish it hadn’t been included this week. Tyrion and Jorah are captured by slavers and Tyrion has one of his amazing talking scenes in which he convinces the slavers to spare his life while they look for a “cock merchant” to verify his soon-to-be-severed dick is from a dwarf by implying his dimensions are, um, not dwarven. He then convinces them to take him and Jorah to Meereen so that Jorah can fight in the pits, and while it’s a great scene, it doesn’t belong in this episode.

Because this episode is uniquely concerned with the plight of women throughout the lands of Westeros. In King’s Landing, Cersei’s plot against the Tyrells comes to a head as Lady Olenna returns to try and get Loras out of prison. The scene between Cersei and Olenna is pitch-perfect, from Cersei’s power plays to Olenna’s impatient expressions. In every major fall from grace on Thrones, you can trace the exact moment the character sealed his or her fate, and this felt like Cersei’s moment. She’s letting a personal vendetta against Margaery get in the way of the bigger picture, and even though Cersei wins the round and Margaery is arrested for lying at Loras’s inquest, it feels like Cersei’s death knell. Lannister support is dwindling, and with another rebellion brewing in the North, they’ll need all the allies they can get, and Cersei has just broken faith with one of their strongest and richest allies.

We also catch up with Arya, who is still struggling with her training in the House of Black and White. Though she still can’t quite let go of Arya to be A Girl, she does successfully lie to and kill someone, which leads A Man to show her a vault full of faces. It’s a striking image, like a way cooler and more macabre version of the Ministry of Magic’s Department of Mysteries, and it seems like Arya is going to become someone else, which would be a major step on her journey to revenge.

The major disappointment is Dorne. The Sand Snakes and Jaime and Bronn converge on Myrcella Lannister and Trystane Martell at the same moment and have a very lackluster fight. First of all, we haven’t spent enough time in Dorne to probably build up this confrontation—it feels like it should have come later in the season. Secondly, the fight choreography is so lacking that the Sand Snakes do not come across as a viable threat. We needed more time with Ellaria and the various Sand Snakes to understand what they’re risking by defying Prince Doran’s orders. We have no idea what the stakes are for them. Sure, they’re avenging Oberyn’s death, but Sansa is also avenging her family’s various and sundry sufferings and we know EXACTLY what’s on the line for her. We have no such frame for the women of Dorne, so this section of the episode feels flat and comparatively boring. There is no tension anywhere in these scenes, which is too bad because this is an otherwise excellent episode.

Next Week: Back to the Wall, blergh.